'and then...

  • the different branches of Arithmetic - -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.' (A Mock Turtle regards his schooldays.) A weblog on books, media and writing by Genevieve Tucker.

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September 10, 2008


A thoughtful and detailed review Genevieve. I enjoyed reading it. Some works I have read by older male autobiographers have the same reserved, empathetic and embracing quality. Perhaps it is in part acceptances that come with age, perhaps it is a holding back enforced on Australian masculinity in part? I'm just throwing these things around, but it's interesting. Perhaps the poetic soul is accepting of the challenges as much as he absorbs and draws from the 'emotional resonance' of nature?
:-) Thanks again,

Thanks for the kind words, A.!

I took some time last night to think about your thoughtful comment, and in reply, I think I've oversimplified (in the interests of brevity I suppose) my speculations about the personal impulses that push this book. And I certainly agree with you, and thanks for drawing me out on the matter - the mechanism of repression is put to work with quietly spectacular results in this work, I think.

It's definitely, in Helen Garner's words (of other works), 'a little machine that works' - and I'm too lazy and under-qualified to look at all the ways it's been done, other than to paraphrase the man himself, on achieving 'emotional resonance by referring to nature'.

There's a terrifying amount of reality in this book, and the clearsightedness with which it is put down does put it in a class with plenty of other remarkable lives of remarkable poets. Perhaps I'm very impressed by it because of a need to absorb the narratives of others struggling with substance abusers, and perhaps I'm just impressed; the Adamson bio is certainly moving up the reading list tout de suite. I am embarrassed to admit I completely abandoned Dmetri Kakmi's bio, Motherland (a fate it does not deserve at all) in order to gobble the Gray book up.

So I will either strike out my fence-sitting comment completely, or point to your helpful comment in the post, at this point, where the fence-sitting occurs:

'The drive seems not to be simply to understand or forgive his parents as such, but to be able to keep himself together, to identify in himself and others some responses to the world that will continue to keep him moving in some direction or other, despite the confusion around him.'

But hey, you know reviewing, you know the buzzwords to spare - powerful, remarkable, beautiful, echhh. Sometimes the fence is a safer place, and blogging also a great spot for some steeplechasing.)

Fence-sitting is fine, as a recognition of conflict within the work itself - sometimes works come alive because of the subtext that you can feel pulling at you, as long as it isn't too deliberately covered up (and hence reads as contrived or restricted). It's almost fun to try and figure out in an autobiography how much the writer is struggling with their depiction of self while they're writing!

I catch myself up a lot with words like 'powerful' and 'beautiful'. It's just that my genuine enthusiasm for things is sometimes difficult to express without generalities. But I'm learning :-)

No, you're on the money about this, it certainly deserves closer examination. With regard to if there's a struggle in there with personal identity, I think there probably is a good chance that there is almost none. He seems very comfortable with himself, alarmingly so.
Also I'm astonished that it took only five drafts - it just seems to have poured out, and he's sculpted it here and there into some pretty formidable shapes.

I just wish the ole brain could call other words up faster - not terribly well wired unless I read people like Mr Gray, who certainly evokes a tangible response in those brain areas.

I stood holding this very book in my hands for a good twenty minutes: i had been attracted to it by its cover, a Euan McLeod painting (well a fragment of one) and I flicked through. It seemed compelling, but at the counter, i sadly put it back, and paid for the book I had come to buy.
I hate having to do that, but finance dictated that one.

I was looking in there for poems, it seemed such an intriguing blend of kinds of writing. I am hunting for poets-perhaps thats why I picked it up.

next time, next time...I really enjoyed your review.

Some days brain not work good.

Isn't it always the way, Fifi. Can you borrow it from uni perhaps?
I am hoping to read his poetry collection sometime soon - I am sure I've read his poems in mags and newspapers over the years.
There are a few online, here.

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